Saiichi Sugiyama, born in Asakusa, Tokyo, is a British-based guitarist, composer and singer, best known for his writing, production and performing collaborations with Pete Brown, the lyricist for Cream, since 2002 to date.
Sugiyama released his eponymous first album in 1994 backed by Phil Williams and Mike Caswell of Walk on Fire, Andy Smith of Hot chocolate, Cutting Crew’s rhythm section and Zoot Money. Playing on the London blues club circuit, Sugiyama’s on stage bands in 1990s at various times featured Boz Burrell of Bad Company, John Cook of Rory Gallagher Band, Sam Kelly and the guitarist Paul Wassif. The album received airplay by Paul Jones and Sugiyama supported Eric Bell, appeared on Live TV and jammed with Otis Grand and members of Jeff Healey Band at Roadhouse in Covent Garden.
After a three year hiatus, Sugiyama began playing the London circuit again with David Hadley-Ray, Darby Todd and Vic Martin backing him. In 2001, Pete Brown, whom Sugiyama met through David Hadley-Ray, began appearing on Sugiyama’s shows playing percussion and singing Cream numbers that he had written. After recording four Cream songs with Sugiyama for a Japanese label for its tribute compilation in 2002, Brown toured Japan with Sugiyama in 2002 and 2004.
Brown co-wrote and produced Sugiyama’s albums “So Am I” (2004) and “SAIICHI” (2005). The studio band featured Clem Clempson, Zoot Money, Pete Brown, David Hadley-Ray and Simon Edgoose. Ben Matthews of Thunder engineered the albums and made a cameo appearance. Rietta Austin, Jim Stapley, Malcolm Bruce, Henry Lowther and Dave Moore also played on the albums. Pete Brown, Zoot Money, Paddy Milner, Ed Spevock appeared on London shows promoting Sugiyama’s albums, which included a party at Hard Rock Café in Park Lane in May 2005 following the last of Cream reunion shows. Sugiyama opened for the Yardbirds, Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack and played Ealing Blues Festival, Colne Blues Festival British Stage, Respect Festival, etc.
Sugiyama since 2002 also collaborated with the late Mamoru “Mark” Horiuchi, the former lead singer of the Japanese rock band GARO, who had a number of chart hits in the Japanese in the early 1970s and was a formative influence on Sugiyama. Mark sang on several tracks on the album “So Am I” and Sugiyama appeared in his concerts in Tokyo in 2000s.
Sugiyama played guitar for Shana Morrison, the daughter of Van Morrison in UK tour band in 2006 and 2010 playing the Borderline, Robin 2 and New Roscoe, Leeds among others.
Sugiyama began working with a female singer to front his band in 2010, most notably Rietta Austin. The band have so far featured at various times Wayne Proctor, Sam Kelly, Dave Moore, Ben Reed, Lizzie Hibbert, Jade Foreman, Malcolm Bruce, Stuart Dixon, Will Johns and his son, Mune Sugiyama. The band supported Spike’s Full House tribute to Andy Fraser featuring Simon Kirke and Luke Morley at the Borderline in 2014, Kirk Fletcher’s 2015 UK tour and has been invited to play supporting Sharks at Annual Free Convention in November 2015.
Saiichi Sugiyama Band consisting of Rietta Austin, Ben Reed, Mune Sugiyama and Rick Biddulph released a studio live album “Smokehouse Sessions” in 2014 to a critical acclaim. After its release, Sugiyama began work on the band’s studio album with a working title “Night Indigo” immediately with the help of Pete Brown on production. The sessions so far featured one of last recordings by the late Andy Fraser on the bass and also strings written by John Shipley, MD of Jack Ashford’s Funk Brothers. The album is scheduled for release in 2016.
Sugiyama moved from Tokyo to England in 1980 and has lived in Surrey and London since then.
Interview - Blues in Britain – Issue 142 October 2013
In August, shortly before a launch gig at Jagz in Ascot, Saiichi talked to Fran Leslie about the making of “The Smokehouse Sessions” album, his musical influences and his collaboration with lyricist and musician Pete Brown.